Sprint Nextel CEO Discusses Post-Merger Transition

From the Associated Press
More than two years after the acquisition that formed Sprint Nextel, the nation's third-largest wireless provider is about 80 percent done weaving the two sides together, the company's chief executive said today.

In a meeting with analysts in New York, Gary Forsee also said the company should see profit margins improve as it begins next year to pare down its two wireless networks to create one.

"We have a big opportunity in front of us," said Forsee, who also serves as Sprint Nextel's chairman.

Sprint bought Nextel Communications Inc. in August 2005 and has struggled ever since with merging the two systems. Technical problems and a required swap of frequencies used by Nextel's press-to-talk network hurt call quality, leading hundreds of thousands of customers to drop the service.

This year, the Reston-based company began selling hybrid phones that work on both the Nextel network and Sprint's regular CDMA network, and it expects to have 2 million of the devices operating by the end of the year, Forsee said.

In 2008, the company will begin providing Nextel customers the choice to switch over to the CDMA network with a new press-to-talk system called QChat, which Forsee said would go into widespread testing in the fourth quarter this year. Sprint has said it will support the Nextel network, also called iDEN, through at least 2012.

"We believe there's a lot of growth opportunity in push-to-talk," Forsee said.

Having all their customers on one network will save big dollars on operational costs and reduce investment in new cell sites and other support infrastructure, Forsee said.

By Mike Shepard  |  September 19, 2007; 2:51 PM ET  | Category:  Sprint , Telecommunications
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